Maya In the News ...





Volcanic Evidence Opens New Maya Mystery   Live Science - May 30, 2014
Tough and tiny zircon crystals have helped researchers rule out an enormous volcanic blast as the source of ash used to make Maya pottery, deepening this long-running archaeological mystery. However, the results did a reveal a tantalizing new pottery puzzle for scientists to solve - whether the Maya's ash came from one volcano or many spewing cones. otters at Maya cities on the Caribbean side of Central America fused volcanic ash with local limestone to form household and ceremonial pottery, because the ash made their ceramics easier to fire. The distinctive recipe was a hallmark of the Late Classic Period from A.D. 600 to 900, Ford said. With thousands of people living in cities such as El Pilar and Tikal, the Mayan potters burned through several tons of volcanic ash every year, Ford has estimated. But no one can figure out where the ash came from. The mystery begins with the fact that there just aren't any volcanoes in eastern Central America. Nor have archaeologists found evidence the Maya mined ash locally.




How Many Mayans Were There?   Live Science - June 27, 2013
The traces of ancient corn farms could reveal how many people lived in a legendary Maya city, a new study suggests. The pyramid-filled Maya site of Tikal in Guatemala is one of the largest archaeological complexes in Central America. The vast city-state had a long run, flourishing from roughly 600 B.C. until A.D. 900 when the Maya civilization mysteriously collapsed. A group of scientists recently revisited the site, not to hunt for lost treasures or artifacts, but to look for clues in the soil chemistry that might reveal the population of Tikal in its prime. "Dirt analysis may not be as sexy as digging up a jade mask from a former Maya king, but now we can answer more questions about the regular people that made up this ancient civilization," study researcher Chris Balzotti, a graduate studentat Brigham Young University (BYU), said in a statement.




2,300-year-old Mayan pyramid bulldozed   MSNBC - May 14, 2013

A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract rock for a road-building project. The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology says the destruction was detected late last week. Only a small portion of center of the pyramid mound was left standing.




Mayan pyramid bulldozed by Belize construction crew   BBC - May 14, 2013
Officials in Belize say a construction company has destroyed one of the country's largest Mayan pyramids. Head of the Belizean Institute of Archaeology Jaime Awe said the Noh Mul temple was leveled by a road-building company seeking gravel for road filler. The Mayan temple dates back to pre-Columbian times and is estimated to be 2,300 year old. Only a small core of the pyramid was left standing. Police said they were investigating the incident. Archaeologists said this was not the first incident of its kind.




Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple   Discovery - April 30, 2013

Hundreds of mysterious spheres lie beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient six-level step pyramid just 30 miles from Mexico City. The enigmatic spheres were found during an archaeological dig using a camera-equipped robot at one of the most important buildings in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan.




Archeologists Unearth New Information On Origins of Maya Civilization   Science Daily - April 25, 2013

The Maya civilization is well-known for its elaborate temples, sophisticated writing system, and mathematical and astronomical developments, yet the civilization's origins remain something of a mystery. Anthropologists typically fall into one of two competing camps with regard to the origins of Maya civilization. The first camp believes that it developed almost entirely on its own in the jungles of what is now Guatemala and southern Mexico. The second believes that the Maya civilization developed as the result of direct influences from the older Olmec civilization and its center of La Venta.




Where did Maya culture come from? Archaeologists dig into tangled roots   MSNBC - April 25, 2013
Archaeologists say that ceremonial structures unearthed in Guatemala are centuries older than they expected - and that the findings point to new theories for the rise of Maya culture. "The origin of Maya civilization was more complex than previously thought," the University of Arizona's Takeshi Inomata, lead researcher for a study appearing in this week's issue of the journal Science, told reporters on Thursday. Even though all this happened 3,000 years ago, the findings could provide fresh insights about social change in general, he said. The Maya had their heyday in Mexico and Central America between the year 250 and 900, but the roots of their culture go much farther back. There are several schools of thought about how their distinctive culture arose: Some archaeologists say the central features of Maya cultural life, including grand ceremonies centered on broad plazas and pyramids, were borrowed from Mexico's older Olmec civilization. Others say those features arose internally, without much outside influence.




Robot Discovers Burial Chambers in Ancient Temple   Live Science - April 23, 2013

Like many other workers, it looks like Indiana Jones has been replaced by a robot. A remote-controlled, mobile robot the size of a lawn mower has discovered three burial chambers deep within the shadowy recesses of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient pyramid in Mexico. The temple is part of the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, a vast complex of temples and pyramids about 31 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Mexico City. Constructed almost 2,000 years ago, the city of Teotihuacan - with more than 125,000 residents, one of the largest cities in the world at its peak - was abandoned several centuries later for reasons that have yet to be discovered.




Mass Human Sacrifice? Pile of Ancient Skulls Found   Live Science - January 26, 2013

Archaeologists have unearthed a trove of skulls in Mexico that may have once belonged to human sacrifice victims. The skulls, which date between A.D. 600 and 850, may also shatter existing notions about the ancient culture of the area. The find, described in the January issue of the journal Latin American Antiquity, was located in an otherwise empty field that once held a vast lake, but was miles from the nearest major city of the day, said study co-author Christopher Morehart, an archaeologist at Georgia State University. Morehart and his colleagues were using satellite imagery to map ancient canals, irrigation channels and lakes that used to surround the kingdom of Teotihuacan (home to the Pyramid of the Sun), about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Mexico City. The vast ancient kingdom flourished from around A.D 200 to 650, though who built it remains a mystery.




Ancient Mexico's Dead Got Makeovers   Live Science - January 9, 2013

Death didn't mean the end of beauty for pre-Hispanic civilizations in what is now Mexico. A new study finds that ancient Teotihuacans likely exhumed the dead and painted them with cosmetics during periodic remembrance rituals. The ancient city of Teotihuacan is northeast of modern-day Mexico city. It was a major cultural area in its day, marked by huge monuments, temples and pyramids. Among the archaeological finds at the site are pots of cosmetic pigments. It was these pots that researchers from Mexico and Spain analyzed to reveal the death practices.




Maya Predicted 1991 Solar Eclipse   Live Science - January 8, 2013

The Maya, best known these days for the doomsday they never foretold, may have accurately predicted astronomical phenomena centuries ahead of time, scientists find. A new book, "Astronomy in the Maya Codices" (American Philosophical Society, 2011), which was awarded the Osterbrock Book Prize for historical astronomy here at the American Astronomical Society conference Monday (Jan. 7), details a series of impressive observations made by Mayan astronomers pre-16th century.




Maya Predicted 1991 Solar Eclipse   Live Science - January 8, 2013

The Maya, best known these days for the doomsday they never foretold, may have accurately predicted astronomical phenomena centuries ahead of time, scientists find. A new book, "Astronomy in the Maya Codices" (American Philosophical Society, 2011), which was awarded the Osterbrock Book Prize for historical astronomy here at the American Astronomical Society conference Monday (Jan. 7), details a series of impressive observations made by Mayan astronomers pre-16th century.




'Oldest Mayan tomb' found in Guatemala's Retalhuleu   BBC - October 26, 2012
One of the oldest Mayan tombs ever found has been uncovered in western Guatemala, say archaeologists. Located at a temple site in Retalhuleu province, the grave is thought to be that of an ancient ruler or religious leader who lived some 2,000 years ago. Carbon-dating indicated the tomb had been built between 700 and 400 BC, said government archaeologist Miguel Orrego.




Maya Holy Snake Queen's Tomb Unearthed in Guatemala   Smithsonian - October 4, 2012

Within a burial chamber, the scientists came across a small, carved alabaster jar depicting the head and arm of a mature woman, a strand of hair in front of her ear. Four glyphs carved into the jar indicated that it belonged to Lady K'abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord, who is considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.




Tomb of Maya Queen Found - "Lady Snake Lord" Ruled Centipede Kingdom   National Geographic - October 5, 2012
Uncovered at the site of the ancient city of El Peru-Waka, the tomb has been identified as likely belonging to Lady K'abel, military ruler of the Wak, or "Centipede," kingdom between A.D. 672 and 692.




Tomb of Maya Queen Found - "Lady Snake Lord" Ruled Centipede Kingdom   National Geographic - October 5, 2012
Uncovered at the site of the ancient city of El Peru-Waka, the tomb has been identified as likely belonging to Lady K'abel, military ruler of the Wak, or "Centipede," kingdom between A.D. 672 and 692.




Tomb of Maya Queen K'abel Discovered in Guatemala   Science Daily - October 4, 2012
Archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered the tomb of Lady K'abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.




"Dramatic" New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces   National Geographic - July 25, 2012
Archaeological "gold mine" illuminates connection between king and sun god. Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar. Long since lost to the Guatemalan jungle, the temple is finally showing its faces to archaeologists, and revealing new clues about the rivalrous kingdoms of the Maya. Unlike the relatively centralized Aztec and Inca empires, the Maya civilization - which spanned much of what are now Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico's Yucatan region - was a loose aggregation of city-states




Sustainable Tech Saw Ancient Maya Through Drought   Live Science - July 16, 2012
For four months out of every year in the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, the skies dried up and no rain fell. Nevertheless, this metropolis in what is now Guatemala became a bustling hub of as many as 80,000 residents by A.D. 700. Now, researchers have found that the residents of Tikal hung on to their civilization for more than 1,000 years thanks to a surprisingly sustainable system of water delivery. The water needs of Tikal were met by a series of paved reservoirs that held rainwater during the 8-month-long wet season for use during dry periods, archeologists report Monday (July 16) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This early plumbing system was surprisingly resilient, seeing the city through times of both plenty and drought.




Ancient Text Confirms Mayan Calendar End Date   Live Science - June 28, 2012
"This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy," Marcello Canuto, the director of Tulane University Middle America Research Institute, said in a statement. "This new evidence suggests that the 13 bak'tun date was an important calendrical event that would have been celebrated by the ancient Maya; however, they make no apocalyptic prophecies whatsoever regarding the date." The Mayan Long Count calendar is divided into bak'tuns, or 144,000-day cycles that begin at the Maya creation date. The winter solstice of 2012 (Dec. 21) is the last day of the 13th bak'tun, marking what the Maya people would have seen as a full cycle of creation.




  Maya 2012 inscription predicts royal stability   USA Today - June 28, 2012

Newly-discovered Maya 2012 inscriptions proclaim royal stability, researchers report, not apocalypse.Announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala, the 1,300-year-old inscriptions from the ruins called La Corona, "provides only the second known reference to the so-called 'end date' for the Maya calendar on December 21, 2012," says a Tulane University statement.




Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument   PhysOrg - June 28, 2012

Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300 year-old year-old Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called 'end date' for the Maya calendar on December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic find in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.




Mayan Mural and Calendar Found Various News Articles - Video, Images, Text - May 10, 2012




First physical evidence of tobacco in a Mayan container   PhysOrg - January 11, 2012
A scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an anthropologist from the University at Albany teamed up to use ultra-modern chemical analysis technology at Rensselaer to analyze ancient Mayan pottery for proof of tobacco use in the ancient culture. Dmitri Zagorevski, director of the Proteomics Core in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer, and Jennifer Loughmiller-Newman, a doctoral candidate at the University at Albany, have discovered the first physical evidence of tobacco in a Mayan container. Their discovery represents new evidence on the ancient use of tobacco in the Mayan culture and a new method to understand the ancient roots of tobacco use in the Americas.




Ancient Offering Discovered Beneath Pyramid of the Sun   Live Science - December 15, 2011

Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered a small treasure trove of items that may have been placed as offerings to mark the start of construction on the Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun almost 2,000 years ago. The offerings include pieces of obsidian and pottery as well as animal remains. Perhaps most striking are three human figurines made out of a green stone, one of which is a serpentine mask that researchers think may have been a portrait.




Original offering found at Teotihuacan pyramid   PhysOrg - December 14, 2011
Archaeologists announced Tuesday that they dug to the very core of Mexico's tallest pyramid and found what may be the original ceremonial offering placed on the site of the Pyramid of the Sun before construction began. The offerings found at the base of the pyramid in the Teotihuacan ruin site just north of Mexico City include a green serpentine stone mask so delicately carved and detailed that archaeologists believe it may have been a portrait. The find also includes 11 ceremonial clay pots dedicated to a rain god similar to Tlaloc, who was still worshipped in the area 1,500 years later, according to a statement by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH.




Ancient Maya Road Let Villagers Flee Volcanic Death   Live Science - October 6, 2011

At 7 p.m. local time on an evening in August some 1,400 years ago, life stopped short in the Maya village of Ceren as the Loma Caldera volcano erupted less than a third of a mile away. Now, while excavating the town, researchers have discovered a unique road, which was likely how the villagers managed to flee the billowing plume of volcanic ash as it rolled through the town. The road is the only known sacbe made of ash; others are made with a stone-filled outer covering that holds them together. These sacbe, or "white ways," are raised paved roads built by the Maya and usually used to connect temples, plazas and groups of structures within ceremonial centers or cities; some longer roads are also known to connect cities. "Until our discovery, these roads were only known from the Yucatan area in Mexico and all were built with stone linings, which generally preserved well," study researcher Peyson Sheets, of the University of Colorado, said in a statement. "It took the unusual preservation at Ceren to tell us the Maya also made them without stone."




Pictures: Maya Royal Tombs Found With Rare Woman Ruler   National Geographic - September 23, 2011
A woman ruler's skeleton - her head mysteriously placed between two bowls - is one of two royal burials recently found at the Maya ruins of Nakum in Guatemala. The roughly 2,000-year-old tomb was found underneath another, 1,300-year-old tomb filled with treasures such as jade gorgets - normally used to protect the throat - beads, and ceremonial knives. The upper tomb's corpse had been badly destroyed by rodents within the last few centuries, but the body was clearly that of another Maya ruler-perhaps another female, based on the small size of a ring found in that tomb.




Human Sacrifice Found in Maya City Sinkhole   National Geographic - July 8, 2011
Maya Underworld: The bones of six humans - including two children - jade beads, shells, and stone tools are among the Maya "treasures" recently found in a water-filled cave off a sinkhole at the famous archaeological site of Chichen Itza in Mexico, archaeologists say. The ancient objects are most likely related to a ritual human sacrifice during a time when water levels were lower, sometime between A.D. 850 and 1250, the researchers say.




Micro-camera Provides First Peek Inside Mayan Tomb   Live Science - June 25, 2011

A Mayan tomb closed to the world for 1,500 years has finally revealed some of its secrets as scientists snaked a tiny camera into a red-and-black painted burial chamber. The room, decorated with paintings of nine figures, also contains pottery, jade pieces and shell, archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The tomb is located in Palenque, an expansive set of stone ruins in the Mexican state of Chiapas. According to the INAH, the tomb was discovered in 1999 under a building called Temple XX. But the stonework and location prevented exploration. [See the images taken in the tomb]




Maya Mystery Solved by "Important" Volcanic Discovery?   National Geographic - April 15, 2011
Volcanic ash found in canals may explain how cities survived with poor soil. Even at ancient Maya cities far from volcanoes, ash rained down relatively frequently, a "spectacularly important" new study says. The finding could explain how these ancient metropolises survived - and even prospered - despite having poor soil. Extending south from southern Mexico, through Guatemala, and into northern Belize, the Maya Empire prospered from about A.D. 250 to 900, when it crumbled. (See an interactive map of the Maya civilization.) Recently scientists discovered a distinct beige clay mineral in ruined canals at Guatemala's Tikal archaeological site-once the largest city of the southern Maya lowlands. The mineral, a type of smectite, derives only from the breakdown of volcanic ash.




Discovery in Guatemala finds oldest royal Mayan tomb   PhysOrg - April 6, 2011
At the recent Society for American Archaeology meeting in Sacramento, California, archaeologist Michael Callaghan from the University of Texas presented his team's findings from the ancient site of K'o (now modern-day Guatemala) and what they believe to be the oldest known royal Mayan tomb.




Ancient Maya Temples Were Giant Loudspeakers?   National Geographic - December 17, 2010
Complexes may have used acoustic design to broadcast - and disorient. Centuries before the first speakers and subwoofers, ancient Americans - intentionally or not - may have been turning buildings into giant sound amplifiers and distorters to enthrall or disorient audiences, archaeologists say. Temples at the ancient Maya city of Palenque (map) in central Mexico, for example, might have formed a kind of "unplugged" public-address system, projecting sound across great distances, according to a team led by archaeologist Francisca Zalaquett of the Universidad Nacional Aut—noma de MŽxico. (See an interactive map of the Maya civilization.)




Maya City in 3-D   National Geographic - November 18, 2010

Airborne lasers have "stripped" away thick rain forests to reveal new images of an ancient Maya metropolis that's far bigger than anyone had thought. An April 2009 flyover of the Maya city of Caracol used Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) equipment - which bounces laser beams off the ground - to help scientists construct a 3-D map of the settlement in western Belize. The survey revealed previously unknown buildings, roads, and other features in just four days, scientists announced earlier this month at the International Symposium on Archaeometry in Tampa, Florida.




Undersea Cave Yields One of Oldest Skeletons in Americas   National Geographic - September 15, 2010
Apparently laid to rest more than 10,000 years ago in a fiery ritual, one of the oldest skeletons in the Americas has been retrieved from an undersea cave along Mexico's Yucat‡n Peninsula, researchers say. Dating to a time when the now lush region was a near desert, the "Young Man of Chan Hol" may help uncover how the first Americans arrived-and who they were. About 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Cancśn, the cave system of Chan Hol - Maya for "little hole" - is like a deep gouge into the Caribbean coast.




Mayan Water Reservoir in Mexican Rainforest: Archaeologists Find Huge Artificial Lake With Ceramic-Lined Floor   Science Daily - August 27, 2010

Archaeologists from the University of Bonn have found a water reservoir the size of a soccer field, whose floor is lined with ceramic shards, in the Mexican rainforest. It seems that in combination with the limestone on top, the shards were supposed to seal the artificial lake. The system was built about 1,500 years ago. It is the first example of this design found for the Maya. It is not yet known whether the reservoir's entire floor is tiled.




Uxul: Ancient Mayan Reservoirs Discovered in City Ruins   Live Science - August 26, 2010
Two artificial lakes, each capable of holding the water of 10 Olympic-size pools, were discovered in ancient Mayan ruins, archaeologists announced today. An analysis of the so-called "aguadas" revealed the ancient Mayans lined these huge reservoirs of drinking water with ceramic shards, similar to outdoor pools today. The lakes would have held enough water to support a population of 2,000 living in the Mayan city of Uxul during the three-month dry season, the researchers say.




Teotihuacan Ruins Yield 1,800 Year Old Tunnels and Tomb   The Epoch Times - August 8, 2010
For nearly 100 years, archeologists have searched for clues to the identity of the monarchs of the ancient city of Teotihuacan in northern Mexico. On Tuesday archeologists announced they have found what they believe is a tunnel and possibly leading to a ruler's tomb.The long sealed tunnel is believed to be more than 1,800 years old. With the use of a camera and ground-penetrating scanner, archeologists have so far found that the tunnel extends about 37 yards and leads to what appears to be a tomb chamber.

In the tomb chamber, archeologists reported finding rich offerings, including almost 50,000 objects of stone, jade, shell and pottery, including rare ceramic beakers. They have not confirmed that chamber contains the remains or imagery of a ruler. The first hint of where the tunnel lay came in 2003 when a heavy rainstorm caused the ground to sink at the foot of the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl in the central ceremonial area of the ruins, which lie approximately 340 miles north of Mexico City. Unlike any other pre-Hispanic metropolises that contain remains of deified rulers, Teotihuacan has to date not yielded a single depiction of a ruler, or even the tomb of a monarch.

Teotihuacan is a large, sprawling complex of temples, avenues and plazas, still used for ceremony by many native Mexican tribes. It is home to the Jaguar Temple, Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, and the towering Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun. Researchers believe that the tunnel was deliberately closed off, between A.D. 200 and 250 and was a central element around which the rest of the ceremonial complex was built, making it the most sacred aspect of the ruins. The city is believed to have had more than 100,000 inhabitants and scientists posit it may have been the largest and most influential city in pre-Hispanic North America at the time. The city reached it's height between 100 B.C. and A.D. 750 and was designated "Teotihuacan" by the Aztecs who discovered it in the 1300's. Teotihuacan means "the place where men become gods."

Since no names, images or other references to rulers have been found in Teotihuacan's stone carvings and exquisite murals, one theory is that city rule may have been shared among multiple leaders, its four precincts possibly ruled by alternating leaders. In 1987 Teotihuacan was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.




Archaeologists Find Tunnel Below the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan   Art Daily.org - August 5, 2010

After eight months of excavation, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have located, 12 meters below , the entrance to the tunnel leading to a series of galleries beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl in the Archaeological Area of Teotihuacan, where the remains of rulers of the ancient city could have been deposited.




Pictures: Odd Maya Tomb Yields Jeweled Teeth, More   National Geographic - July 23, 2010

This ceramic tamale bowl was found near a partly burned baby, gem-studded teeth, and other artifacts in a Maya royal tomb that was opened in Guatemala.




  Diver "Vanishes" in Portal to Maya Underworld   National Geographic - June 29, 2010

Diving into natural pools in Belize in the quest for offerings from the ancient Maya, explorers found what's believed to be the country's first recorded fossilized remains. In the course of the expedition, one diver "disappeared" into the pool's floor.




Aztec, Maya Were Rubber-Making Masters?   National Geographic - June 29, 2010

Ancient civilizations in much of Mexico and Central America were making different grades of rubber 3,000 years before Charles Goodyear "stabilized" the stuff in the mid-19th century, new research suggests. The Aztec, Olmec, and Maya of Mesoamerica are known to have made rubber using natural latex - a milky, sap-like fluid found in some plants. Mesoamerica extends roughly from central Mexico to Honduras and Nicaragua (regional map). Ancient rubber makers harvested latex from rubber trees and mixed it with juice from morning glory vines, which contains a chemical that makes the solidified latex less brittle.




Massive Maya City Revealed by Lasers   National Geographic - May 20, 2010




Maya Plumbing: First Pressurized Water Feature Found in New World   Science Daily - May 5, 2010
A water feature found in the Maya city of Palenque, Mexico, is the earliest known example of engineered water pressure in the new world, according to a collaboration between two Penn State researchers, an archaeologist and a hydrologist. How the Maya used the pressurized water is, however, still unknown.




Classic Maya History Is Embedded in Commoners' Homes   Science Daily - April 16, 2010
They were illiterate farmers, builders and servants, but Maya commoners found a way to record their own history -- by burying it within their homes. A new study of the objects embedded in the floors of homes occupied more than 1,000 years ago in central Belize begins to decode their story.




Ancient Mural Portrays Ordinary Mayans   Live Science - March 7, 2010

One corner of the painted Maya pyramid structure at Calakmul, Mexico.




Ancient Texts Present Mayans As Literary Geniuses   PhysOrg - March 5, 2010
Literary critics, cultural scholars and aficionados of the Mayans, the only fully literate people of the pre-Columbian Americas, have lined up to call the first fully illustrated survey of two millennia of Mayan texts assembled by award-winning scholar Dennis Tedlock, "stunning," "astounding," "groundbreaking" and "literally breathtaking."




Mexico: Maya tomb find could help explain collapse   PhysOrg - January 28, 2010
Mexican archaeologists have found an 1,100-year-old tomb from the twilight of the Maya civilization that they hope may shed light on what happened to the once-glorious culture.




How the Maya lived   NBC - November 11, 2009

Murals found on a buried Mexican pyramid reveal how the average Maya lived about 1,350 years ago - shedding light on aspects of Maya society that are "virtually unknown," researchers say. Almost all of the artifacts associated with the ancient Maya civilization have to do with the ruling class and religious life: the secrets of the Maya's ritual blue paint, or their monumental religious panels, or the arrangement of their temples, or even their controversial calendar. In contrast, precious little has remained from the everyday lifestyles of ordinary Maya. Some hints have emerged in recent years. For example, archaeologists analyzed the chemical residues of Classic Maya settlements to determine that the Maya had a functioning market economy. But when it comes to visualizing how that market worked, the murals found at Mexico's Calakmul site provide the best picture yet.




Maya Murals Give Rare View of Everyday Life   Live Science - November 9, 2009

Recently excavated Mayan murals are giving archaeologists a rare look into the lives of ordinary ancient Maya. The murals were uncovered during the excavation of a pyramid mound structure at the ancient Maya site of Calakmul, Mexico (near the border with Guatemala) and are described in the Nov. 9 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The find "was a total shock," said Simon Martin of the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who studied the paintings and hieroglyphs depicted in the murals.




Photos: Lost Treasures of the Zapotec Civilization   National Geographic - March 9, 2009
Zapotec Digs in Mexico Show Clues to Rise and Fall   National Geographic - March 9, 2009

When it comes to pre-Columbian civilizations, the Aztec and Maya - known for their spectacular pyramids and temples, hieroglyphic writing systems, and elaborate, violent rituals - often overshadow the Zapotec , their less familiar counterparts centered in southern Mexico. But the Zapotec also played a vital role in ancient Mesoamerica, and archaeologists are seeking new clues to the rise and fall of their culture and civilization, which flourished and declined in the Valley of Oaxaca at roughly the same time as the ancient Maya.




Mexico's Unconquered Maya Hold Tight to Their Old Ways   National Geographic - January 16, 2009
When archaeologist Joel Palka ventured into the rain forests of northern Guatemala to study the disappearance of the ancient Maya, locals laughed. The "ancient" Maya had, in fact, been in the area as recently as the 1920s, they told him. In the early 1990s, when Palka was first in the region, there had been virtually no archaeological research done on the unconquered Maya. They were a mysterious people who had retreated deep into the rain forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala after the Spanish first arrived in the Yucatan in 1511.




Portal to Maya Underworld Found in Mexico? National Geographic - August 22, 2008

Mexican archeologists have discovered a maze of stone temples in underground caves, some submerged in water and containing human bones, which ancient Mayans believed was a portal where dead souls entered the underworld. Clad in scuba gear and edging through narrow tunnels, researchers discovered the stone ruins of eleven sacred temples and what could be the remains of human sacrifices at the site in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Archeologists say Mayans believed the underground complex of water-filled caves leading into dry chambers -- including an underground road stretching some 330 feet -- was the path to a mythical underworld, known as Xibalba.

According to an ancient Mayan scripture, the Popol Vuh, the route was filled with obstacles, including rivers filled with scorpions, blood and pus and houses shrouded in darkness or swarming with shrieking bats, Guillermo de Anda, one of the lead investigators at the site. "The souls of the dead followed a mythical dog who could see at night," de Anda said.

Excavations over the past five months in the Yucatan caves revealed stone carvings and pottery left for the dead. "They believed that this place was the entrance to Xibalba. That is why we have found the offerings there," de Anda said. The Mayans built soaring pyramids and elaborate palaces in Central America and southern Mexico before mysteriously abandoning their cities around 900 A.D. They described the torturous journey to Xibalba in the Popul Vuh sacred text, originally written in hieroglyphic script on long scrolls and later transcribed by Spanish conquerors. "It is very likely this area was protected as a sacred depository for the dead or for the passage of their souls," said de Anda, whose team has found ceramic offerings along with bones in some temples.

Different Mayan groups who inhabited southern Mexico and northern Guatemala and Belize had their own entrances to the underworld which archeologists have discovered at other sites, almost always in cave systems buried deep in the jungle. In the Yucatan site they have found one 1,900-year-old ceramic vase, but most of the artifacts date back to between 700 and 850 A.D. "These sacred tunnels and caves were natural temples and annexes to temples on the surface," said de Anda.




Ancient Maya Tomb Yields "Amazing" Fabrics National Geographic - April 26, 2008
Fabric fragments excavated from the tomb of an ancient Maya queen rival modern textiles in their complexity and quality, scientists say. The tomb was discovered in the Maya city of Copan in Honduras by a team led by archaeologist Robert Sharer of the University of Pennsylvania.




Maya May Have Caused Civilization-Ending Climate Change National Geographic - February 29, 2008
Self-induced drought and climate change may have caused the destruction of the Maya civilization, say scientists working with new satellite technology that monitors Central America's environment. Researchers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, launched the satellite program, known as SERVIR, in early 2005 to help combat wildfires, improve land use, and assist with natural disaster responses.




Secret to Mayan Blue Paint Found Live Science - February 26, 2008

Mysteries of "Sacrificial" Maya Blue Pigment Solved? National Geographic - February 26, 2008
An ancient clay bowl from Mexico is providing new clues to the production and role of a hardy blue pigment widely employed by the ancient Maya. The find also helps explain a mysteriously thick layer of blue silt that archaeologists reported at the bottom of a sacrificial sinkhole where the bowl was recovered more than a century ago.




Ancient Mayans: Temples for Everyone! National Geographic - February 26, 2008


It was long thought that the ancient stone pyramid temples of the Maya were built by their royalty. Now it turns out any number of different factions among the Maya - nobles, priests and maybe even commoners - may have built temples, scientists now suggest.




Guatemala: Spy Satellite Spots Lost Mayan Cities -- AOL - February 21, 2008

Guatemala City: Ancient Mayan astronomers aligned their soaring temples with the stars and now modern archeologists have found the ruins of hidden cities in the Guatemalan jungle by peering down from space.

Archaeologists investigating the collapse of the Mayan civilization said Wednesday that they used a satellite to uncover the ruins of hidden cities in the Guatemalan jungle. The satellite can see through clouds and forests to reveal differences in the vegetation below. The image above was colored to help highlight patterns of jungle growth.

Archeologists and NASA scientists began teaming up five years ago to search for clues about the mysterious collapse of the Mayan civilization that flourished in Central America and southern Mexico for 1,000 years. The work is paying off, says archeologist William Saturno, who recently discovered five sprawling sites with hundreds of buildings using a spy satellite that can see through clouds and forest to reveal differences in the vegetation below. Saturno said the satellite images made it infinitely easier to find ruins covered for centuries by dense jungle vines and trees.

Saturno first sought out satellite images to find a source of water near his excavation camp at San Bartolo, which lies 32 miles from the nearest town on inaccessible roads deep in Guatemala's northern Peten region. NASA gave him a snapshot of solar radiation reflected off the wide variety of plants in the region. Saturno was surprised to see a pattern of discoloration in the satellite image that outlined some of the buildings he had already uncovered. Using a GPS device, he pinpointed on a map the location of other discolorations nearby and discovered several areas with hidden Mayan architecture.

The Maya built with limestone and lime plasters. As the abandoned buildings disintegrate, chemicals from the stones seep into the soil, keeping some plants from growing around the structures and affecting the chemistry of those that do grow. The satellite can spot these differences and the result is a virtual road map of the buried structures from nearly 400 miles above Earth's surface.

Saturno said he expects more discoveries like his 2001 find of an elaborate mural from around 100 B.C. depicting the Mayan creation myth, dubbed the Sistine Chapel of the Mayan world. His research partner at NASA, Tom Sever, hopes the satellite images could provide clues as to why the Mayan civilization collapsed around 900 A.D. "What we are investigating is the choices the Maya made that ultimately created a catastrophic situation for them," Sever said by telephone from a NASA base in the U.S. state of Alabama.

To support a population boom the Maya felled huge swathes of jungle for agriculture. They collected water in giant reservoirs called "bajos" to farm during seasonal dry spells, but the deforestation raised temperatures and reduced rainfall, drying up water sources, Sever said. Bajos were found at around half the new sites located by the satellite, potentially boosting this theory of why the Maya had to leave their cities. Information about the fate of the Maya could help modern societies make better choices and avoid the sometimes disastrous mistakes of the past.




Ancient Maya Used "Glitter" Paint to Make Temple Gleam National Geographic - February 7, 2008
The ancient Maya painted some of their ornate temples with mica to make them sparkle in the sun, a new study suggests. Scientists discovered traces of the shiny mineral while analyzing flakes of paint taken from the Rosalila temple in Copan, Honduras.




Ancient Mayan Marketplace Discovered National Geographic - December 5, 2007

An ancient marketplace once stood in Chunchucmil, a pre-Columbian Maya city that was located in the Yucat‡n Peninsula, a new study says. The research sheds light on the ancient Maya economy and challenges prevailing theories that food was taxed and dispersed by Maya rulers during the culture's Classic era, which lasted from about A.D. 300 to 900, rather than traded in markets, experts said. Food and other organic matter degrade quickly in such wet climates. So scientists studying how the ancient Maya traded, bought, and sold food have had to work with little archeological evidence.




Rare Maya "Death Vase" Discovered National Geographic - December 3, 2007
An extremely rare and intricately carved "death vase" has been discovered in the 1,400-year-old grave of an elite figure from the Maya world, scientists say. The vase is the first of its kind to be found in modern times, and its contents are opening a window onto ancient rituals of ancestor worship that included food offerings, chocolate enemas, and hallucinations induced by vomiting, experts say.




Maya Rituals Caused Ancient Decline in Big Game National Geographic - November 15, 2007

Maya rulers' growing demand for animals of symbolic value may have caused a decline in big game, like jaguars, in ancient Latin America, a new study suggests. Faced with environmental problems and doubts about their ability to provide for their followers, the Maya elite may have ordered more hunting of large mammals whose meat, skins, and teeth provided proof of power and status, the study says.




Snake-bird gods fascinated both Aztecs and Egypt

Quetzalcoatl

Reuters - September 24, 2007

Ancient Mexicans and Egyptians who never met and lived centuries and thousands of miles apart both worshiped feathered-serpent deities, built pyramids and developed a 365-day calendar, a new exhibition shows. Billed as the world's largest temporary archeological showcase, Mexican archeologists have brought treasures from ancient Egypt to display alongside the great indigenous civilizations of Mexico for the first time.

The exhibition, which boasts a five-tonne, 3,000-year-old sculpture of Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II and stone carvings from Mexican pyramid at Chichen Itza, aims to show many of the similarities of two complex worlds both conquered by Europeans in invasions 1,500 years apart. "There are huge cultural parallels between ancient Egypt and Mexico in religion, astronomy, architecture and the arts. They deserve to be appreciated together," said exhibition organizer Gina Ulloa, who spent almost three years preparing the 35,520 square-feet (3,300 meter-square) display.

The exhibition, which opened at the weekend in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, shows how Mexican civilizations worshiped the feathered snake god Quetzalcoatl from about 1,200 BC to 1521, when the Spanish conquered the Aztecs.

From 3,000 BC onward Egyptians often portrayed their gods, including the Goddess of the Pharaohs Isis, in art and sculpture as serpents with wings or feathers. The feathered serpent and the serpent alongside a deity signifies the duality of human existence, at once in touch with water and earth, the serpent, and the heavens, the feathers of a bird," said Ulloa. Egyptian sculptures at the exhibition -- flown to Mexico from ancient temples along the Nile and from museums in Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria - show how Isis' son Horus was often represented with winged arms and accompanied by serpents. Cleopatra, the last Egyptian queen before the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, saw herself as Isis and wore a gold serpent in her headpiece.

In the arts, Mexico's earliest civilization, the Olmecs, echo Egypt's finest sculptures. Olmec artists carved large man-jaguar warriors that are similar to the Egyptian sphinxes on display showing lions with the heads of gods or kings. The seated statue of an Egyptian scribe carved between 2465 and 2323 BC shows stonework and attention to detail that parallels a seated stone sculpture of an Olmec lord. There is no evidence the Olmecs and Egyptians ever met.

Shared traits run to architecture, with Egyptians building pyramids as royal tombs and the Mayans and Aztecs following suit with pyramids as places of sacrifice to the gods. While there is no room for pyramids at the exhibition -- part of the Universal Forum of Cultures, an international cultural festival held in Barcelona in 2004 -- organizers say it is the first time many of pieces have left Egypt. They include entire archways from Nile temples, a bracelet worn by Ramses II and sarcophagi used by the pharaohs. Mexico has also brought together Aztec, Mayan and Olmec pieces from across the country.




Ancient Farm Discovery Yields Clues to Maya Diet   National Geographic - August 20, 2007
The ancient Maya cultivated crops of manioc - also known as cassava - some 1,400 years ago, according to archaeologists studying a Maya farm preserved in volcanic ash. The discovery may help solve the long-standing mystery of how the ancient culture produced enough energy-rich, starchy food to support its large city-centered populations.




World's Longest Underground River Discovered in Mexico, Divers Say   National Geographic - March 6, 2007


German diver Robbie Schmittner is seen diving with a propulsion device through an underwater cave system in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. Bogaerts says he and Schmittner found flooded underground passages connecting two previously known caves, a discovery that could constitute the world's longest underwater cave system, showing how vulnerable the Yucatan's fabled underground water system is.




Ancient Maya Royal Tomb Discovered in Guatemala   National Geographic - May 4, 2006


Archeologists outsmarted tomb raiders to unearth a major Maya Indian royal burial site in the Guatemalan jungle, discovering jade jewelry and a jaguar pelt from more than 1,500 years ago.




Priceless Maya Stone Vessel Looted in Guatemala   National Geographic - May 7, 2006

Just days after the rare discovery of an untouched royal Maya tomb in Guatemala comes news of plundered Maya treasure in that same Central American country. Looters have stolen a rare and exquisitely carved 1,500-year-old stone box from a cave near the city of CancuŽn, experts told the National Geographic Society this week. Carved from volcanic rock and covered in intricate hieroglyphs, the vessel is only the fourth of its kind to emerge from the so-called Maya rain forest of Central America. Dating to A.D. 480 to 550, the box is a rare example of lowland Maya art from the murky Early Classic period, Woodfill says. Symbolic figures and characters - including the god of the underworld, a scribe, and another artisan - adorn four sides of the box.




Earliest Mayan writing found in pyramid   NBC - January 6, 2006

Newly discovered hieroglyphs show that the Maya were writing at a complex level 150 years earlier than previously thought. The glyphs, which date to about 250 B.C., were found on preserved painted walls and plaster fragments in the pyramidal structure known as Las Pinturas, in San Bartolo, Guatemala. Las Pinturas also yielded the previously oldest samples of Mayan writing, dating back to 100 B.C. Writing emerged in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India as far back as 3,000 B.C. Yet the first full-blown text - a series of signs that are clearly telling a story - does not show up in the New World until about 400 to 300 B.C. They were left by the Zapotecs in the Oaxaca Valley south of central Mexico. Most of the early Maya writing comes from between A.D. 150 and 250. Because Zapotec writing emerged so much earlier, researchers have long believed that the Maya were influenced by it. The earliest single Mayan glyph - which could have stood for a person's name or might have been a sign on a calendar - dates to about 600 B.C. But it isn't considered writing.




Ancient Portrait of Maya Woman Found - Who Was She?   National Geographic - December 8, 2005

Archaeologists have found the earliest known Maya stone carving bearing the portrait of a woman. The discovery was made earlier this year in the jungles of northern Guatemala at a site called Naachtun, some 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of the Maya city of Tikal. The portrait, which is carved into a stone monument known as a stela, shows a woman's face with her hands upheld. It dates back to the fourth century A.D., suggesting that women held powerful positions early in Maya society either as queens or as deities.




Mass Graves Reveal Massacre of Maya Royalty National Geographic - November 18, 2005
Archaeologists have discovered what they believe was the gruesome scene of a royal massacre in the ancient city of CancuŽn, once one of the richest cities in the Maya empire. The bones of 31 executed and dismembered Maya nobles were found in a sacred reservoir at the entrance to the royal palace in CancuŽn in the Peten rain forest of Guatemala.




Maya culture 'ahead of its time'   BBC - May 8, 2004


Giant masks reveal early Maya sophistication

Archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli is dwarfed by the enormous stucco face of a Maya deity at a little-known site in Guatemala called Cival. The city, Cival, thrived in what is generally considered the "pre-classic" period - but it bore the hallmarks of the more advanced "classic" period. Cival had pyramids and a large complex surrounding a central plaza. The buildings were carefully positioned so they faced the sunrise in the equinox. According to Professor Estrada-Belli, this suggests they were used to measure time.




Archaeologists Uncover Maya "Masterpiece" in Guatemala   National Geographic - April 23, 2004


Archaeologists working deep in Guatemala's rain forest under the protection of armed guards say they have unearthed one of the greatest Maya art masterpieces ever found. The artifact - a 100-pound (45-kilogram) stone panel carved with images and hieroglyphics - depicts Taj Chan Ahk, the mighty 8th-century king of the ancient Maya city-state of Cancuen - excavation of royal mayan palace.




Ancient Nicaraguan society found   BBC - May 199, 2003

Archaeologists have discovered what they describe as a previously unknown ancient civilization in Central America. The site, near the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, dates from before the Mayan era, and relics include what appears to be a centre for mass production of ceremonial columns. Researchers have been working on the site at El Cascal de Flor de Pino, near the town of Kukra Hill for six years. They've found evidence of an ancient town and several outlying villages, which developed around 2,700 years ago and lasted for a thousand years. There are monuments, petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pottery, and most remarkably, an area where many huge columns were formed out of rock - columns which may have been used at burial sites.




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